Photo Essays

This Year, Frieze Los Angeles Feels Grand, Celebratory, and Actually Kind of Fun

This year’s iteration drives painted sports cars into the showroom, disguises booths as furnished apartments, and even houses a James Turrell skyroom.

Performance artist Pandemonia at Frieze Los Angeles 2020 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — Frieze Los Angeles is doing away with minimalism. This year’s iteration drives painted sports cars into the showroom, disguises booths as furnished apartments, and even houses a James Turrell skyroom. 

Situated in Paramount Studios and its backlot — a grand imitation of New York City with palm trees sneaking into the skyline — Frieze juxtaposes a traditional enclosed art fair, stuffed with blue chip galleries exhibiting living and late superstars like Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, with a sprawling outdoor festival that celebrates Los Angeles’s history of artist-run spaces. 

Inside the main tent, colorful figurative paintings, motion works on large LCD screens, and bright neon slogans (“Look at Them Look at Us” cries out a piece by LA-based artist Genevieve Gaignard) compete for attention. Some galleries turn their entire booths into an immersive experience, like at Anat Ebgi, where Greg Ito’s paintings of California wildfires line the walls of a dining room slowly flooding from rising tides that protrude from the baseboards. Other booths, like Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, stuff their space with a wide sampling of who they represent. Bonakdar showed off works from 12 artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Kelly Akashi, and Sandra Cinto.

Genevieve Gaignard, “Look at Them Look at Us,” Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles

Outside, on the Frieze Backlot, pop-up reading rooms, shops, and bars are moved into Paramount’s brownstones, giving you a rare chance to see New York through the same eyes as Ally McBeal. The backlot’s highlight is Frieze Projects, curated by Rita Gonzalez and Pilar Tompkins Rivas, a set of 18 recontextualized or newly commissioned, site-specific art pieces and performances by 16 artists. Lorna Simpson’s two-channel video installation, “Momentum” (2011), shows Black ballet dancers perpetually spinning, their bodies painted gold like prized Oscar statuettes. Will Boone’s life-sized sculpture, “The Three Fates” (2020), depicts three witches conspiring over a cauldron, their cartoonish figures evoking oversized merchandise from a Disney film. And Patrisse Cullors leads a silent disco, inviting fairgoers to put on synced wireless headphones and side-step to the electric side.

Frieze Projects commission, Patrisse Cullors

With such grandiose artworks dominating Frieze Los Angeles, the fair caters to the Instagram age more than ever before. But not every booth — especially the LA contingent — lets a photo op overpower substance. Look for Calida Rawles’s gorgeous paintings of Black swimmers at Various Small Fires (one of these paintings is the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s newest novel), Jaime Muñoz’s modern take on pre-Colombian art at the Pit, and Gaignard’s flowery demands for gallerists — or anyone — to sell to Black collectors at Suzanne Vielmetter Los Angeles.

Frieze Los Angeles 2020
Frieze Projects commission, Will Boone, “The Three Fates,” Paramount Backlot
Frieze Projects commission, Tavares Strachan, “Sometimes Lies Are Prettier,” Paramount Backlot
Frieze Projects commission, Lorna Simpson, “Momentum,” Paramount Backlot
People posing in front of Frieze Projects commission, Gary Simmons, “Back Drop Project,” on the Paramount Backlot
Olafur Elliasson, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Greg Ito, Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles
Greg Ito, Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles
Derrick Adams, Salon 94, New York
Jordan Casteel, Casey Kaplan, New York
Genevieve Gaignard, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles
Alison Saar, L.A. Louver, Los Angeles,
Alicja Kwade (sculpture) and Gregor Hildebrandt (paintings), König Galerie, Berlin
Ugo Rondinone, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich
Ida Eklab, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Gehard Demetz (sculpture), Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Gallerie Perrotin
Eliza Douglas, Overduin & Co., Los Angeles
Frieze Projects commission, Naama Tsabar, “Untitled (Double Face,)” installed in one of the brownstones on the Paramount Backlot
Frieze Projects commission, Gabriella Sanchez, “Hommes, Homes, Homes,” Paramount Backlot
Sayre Gomez “Palm Tree Cell Tower” and the Paramount water tower

Frieze Los Angeles opens to the public at the Paramount Pictures Studios (5515 Melrose Ave, Hollywood, Los Angeles) on Friday, February 14.

Correction: A previous version of this article credited an artwork to Betye Saar that is in fact by Genevieve Gaignard. This has been corrected.

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